Several years ago, I was told to read World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks because I was a huge fan of zombies. Also, because the book has apparently good writing. The book did me justice, and I soon found out that a movie was in the works and I was thrilled. So, the movie is out, the reviews are in, and a lot of people disagree.
The first thing to know about the movie is that it is definitely not the book, though probably most people would agree that this is true of any book-to-movie production. But I mean it particularly here, as the book took the whole war from a different angle. Max Brooks set up the whole book with an unseen narrator going around after the war had ended, speaking with people who experienced it in different ways to show what the world went through. He used this as a platform to approach the entire concept of zombies scientifically, how they could actually work in the real world, and what would happen if we fought them based on this science. The oral histories themselves were beautifully crafted, every voice as different and memorable as the one before. It was fascinating.
This also makes for a hard movie to make, because there is no strong narrator whose story we are trying to follow. At least, if we are looking at making the movie in a typical manner and that is what Marc Forster ended up choosing to do, and honestly, I am okay with that. Because I think the interpretation he and Brad Pitt ended up coming up with is still pretty great, even if we lose the book’s intriguing way of looking at the war. Brad Pitt’s character, Gerry Lane, an ex-UN employee who apparently has some crazy Liam Neeson-from-Taken-like skills, is sent to help figure out how the apocalypse started and how to stop it. Debate comes in on whether or not it’s a good story. I vote yes. Gerry Lane is smart, cares for his family, and courageous. He also does not hide when he’s terrified or has no idea what to do next, and that makes you as terrified as he is.
There are not a lot of guts and gore in this movie, because admittedly, it’s not so much a movie about zombies but a movie about disease, like Contagion. Also, there is little up-close hand-to-hand combat; instead wider shots show the sheer mass of them, with some major CGI to do this. Those scenes can either suck you in further or totally disengage you from the movie, because I’ll admit, they can be hard to believe. But the story does its part of making you want to believe the effects.
I read one review (unfortunately, I cannot recall which since I read many) that suggested approaching the movie with having the stories told in the book told by actors in front of a black background, retelling each story and of course, showing how those stories went, would have done the book more justice, and I think this is true. But I also think that the movie would not have reaped as much money at the box office, though I could be incorrectly dismissing my peers. I do know that World War Z has managed to earn a sequel. And I think that just maybe, they could do it that way the second time, because now they have piqued the interest of those who watched. And just maybe, the book lovers of this set will get the movie that could have been.